A case before Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Edward Hargadon this week will bring him to his knees — and he's not even the judge. In fact, it's not even a real case.
Hargadon, 61, of Charles Village, is one of many judges and attorneys who are cast members in the Young Victorian Theatre Company's upcoming performances of "Trial by Jury," a 40-minute Gilbert & Sullivan operetta that pokes fun at the legal profession of its day.
The comic confection is being staged twice this week for a serious purpose, as a fundraiser by the Maryland Bar Foundation, the nonprofit affiliate and fundraising arm of the Baltimore Bar Association, to garner money to represent the legally underserved — defendants who can't afford an attorney.
Special benefit performances are scheduled for Thursday, March 3 at 3:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 5 at 8 p.m., both in Westminster Hall at the University of Maryland's Francis Key Carey School of Law, 519 W. Fayette St. The first performance is a matinee for UM law students, with a reception afterward. Those tickets cost $45. The second show is being promoted as a public performance and tickets are $20.
North Baltimore is well represented in the cast, in which professional singers co-mingle with members of the legal profession. Two of the jurists are Hargadon and Michael Reed, 55, of Cedarcroft, who sits on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court. Reed plays a "juryman," as jurors in England were known in 1875, when "Trial By Jury" debuted at London's Royalty Theatre. Hargadon plays a member of The Gallery. Both sing in the show and drop to their knees with their fellow jurymen, "the old way of being sworn in," Hargadon said.
Hargadon is no stranger to the legal stage, "but I've never done it this way," he said during a rehearsal at Roland Park Presbyterian Church on Saturday. "It was hard learning the lines and music. But this is loads of fun."
"And it's a worthy cause," said Reed, who previously has sung mostly in church choirs. "It's a charitable thing and even as judges, we're allowed to participate. It's great to interact with other members of the bar. I didn't know some of these attorneys and judges had these talents."
In song and with no spoken dialogue, "Trial By Jury" tells the story of beautiful Angelina, the Plaintiff (professional singer Kelly Curtin, 30, of Alexandria, Va.), who is jilted for another woman by her fiance, Edwin, the Defendant, (Ben Schulman, an opera singer-turned-lawyer, 40, of Eldersburg), and sues Edwin for breach of promise of marriage.
"I'm not very happy with him," Curtin explained.
But the judge in the case falls for Angelina and resolves the lawsuit by marrying her himself.
'That's judge to you'
Playing the role of The Learned Judge is none other than Brian Goodman, 58, a Towson attorney, Pikesville resident and the longtime general manager of the Young Victorian Theatre Company, known as Young Vic. Now in its 39th year, the semi-professional troupe has been a staple of summer in North Baltimore, specializing in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and now performs at Roland Park Country School's Sinex Theater after many years at Gilman and Bryn Mawr. Goodman remembers running Young Vic as a UM law student himself, in 1981.
But it's unusual to see Young Vic in the winter — and Goodman as a cast member. "That's judge to you," he quipped when introduced at a recent rehearsal.
Organizers are hoping the benefit shows will raise $8,000 to $10,000, said Kelly Hughes Iverson, treasurer of the bar association and vice president of the bar foundation. Iverson, 50, of Ten Hills, is a partner in the law firm Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann, which is one of seven or eight sponsors of the shows. She said the 2,200-member bar association has long done annual fundraisers such as golf tournaments and symposiums on topics like health care, technology and the law, but has never done a theater production as a fundraiser.
"This one is something completely different," Iverson said. It's a different experience for her personally, too. She plays a bridesmaid in "Trial By Jury" and said it's her first stage appearance since high school, when she played Nancy, a teenager in the chorus of "Bye Bye Birdie."
Also in the show, as "1st Bridesmaid," is Iverson's daughter, Claire, a high school senior at the Baltimore School for the Arts and an aspiring classical singer, who is applying to colleges and has auditioned for acceptance into the Peabody Conservatory, among other college music programs.
"I don't have to drag her into the show," Kelly Iverson said.
Another member of The Gallery is Kathy Howard, 61, of Mount Washington, the general counsel for Regional Management Inc., which manages apartment buildings, shopping centers and other commercial properties in the Baltimore area. It's more than a peanut gallery, Howard said.
"Gilbert & Sullivan kicked things up a bit, so it's a pecan gallery," she said.
Howard is also the wife of Baltimore Circuit Court Judge John Addison Howard, who is not in the show.
"He's going to be on the support staff in the audience, laughing in all the right places," she said.
Howard said she got involved through "the wily ways of Mr. Goodman," but still has her doubts about how good she is.
"They say practice makes perfect, but I don't know sometimes," said Howard, who sang in a glee club in high school in Frederick, and now will sing in a chorus of about a dozen bridesmaids.
"We're like a little chorus," she said. "We're not Greek, but we're a chorus."
She and other bridesmaids braved a rainstorm earlier last week to attend a chorus-only rehearsal, also at the church. Others included Willis Gunther, of Towson, assistant attorney general for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
The production of "Trial By Jury" has good pedigree, and not only for its assemblage of legal firepower. The shows are being directed by James Harp, artistic director of Lyric Opera Baltimore and a veteran of the opera and classical music scene in Baltimore. The musical director and conductor, as always for Young Vic shows, is Philip Collister, professor of Voice/Opera at Towson University.
Both men led rehearsals passionately last week. Collister told cast members during a chorus-only rehearsal to "indulge your inner opera singer," and Harp advised Curtin, who wore her wedding gown costume during a full cast rehearsal Saturday, to show a little more cleavage as the plaintiff, Angelina.
Costuming the shows is the family-owned House of Bankerd, a Windsor Mill-based nonprofit organization that provides assistance and resources at little or no cost to help community arts groups produce quality productions. Lisa Dickinson, the president, and Lance Bankerd, artistic director and vice president of production, took pains in fitting cast members for their roles during Saturday's rehearsal, and Dickinon at one point ran up behind Curtin to straighten her ponytail.
Peter Tomaszewski, 35, of Ednor Gardens-Lakeside, is not an attorney, but the professional singer played one in a lead role as Counsel to the Plaintiff. The 6-foot-7 Tomaszewski looked the part in a large gray wig that made him seem even more distinguished and imposing.
"It's kind of fun when you're working with people who aren't in music," he said. "It's fresh for them. It's nice to tap into that energy."
But can they carry a tune in a bucket?
"They're doing pretty good," he said, smiling broadly.